Pre-launch photo of Opportunity at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
Credit: NASA

That thick dust storm on Mars continues. The storm caused NASA’s Opportunity rover at Meridiani to suspend science operations.

The Martian dust storm began on May 30.

Latest status

What’s the latest status on the solar-powered Opportunity rover, now in Sol 5132?

“We have not heard from the rover for a couple of weeks,” explains Ray Arvidson of Washington University in Saint Louis. He is deputy principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rovers – Opportunity and Spirit.

This graphic shows how the energy available to NASA’s Opportunity rover on Mars (in watt-hours) depends on how clear or opaque the atmosphere is (measured in a value called tau).
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/New Mexico Museum of Natural History

Spirit has long been silent, becoming bogged down in sand late 2009. Its last communication with Earth was sent on March 22, 2010.

Opportunity has been wheeling and dealing with Mars since it landed in Meridiani Planum on January 25, 2004. But the rover’s last image received on Earth was from its Panoramic Camera, way back on Sol 5111.

Getting back to full operation

Most likely Opportunity is in a low power mode “in which the rover wakes up, checks its power, and if too low just goes back to sleep again,” Arvidson told Inside Outer Space.

Graphic shows the ongoing contributions of NASA’s rovers and orbiters during a Martian dust storm that began on May 30, 2018. Not shown is Europe’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Mars Express, also active circling the Red Planet, as is India’s Mars Orbiter Mission.
Credit: NASA/JPL

 

 

“At some point as the storm subsides Opportunity should wake up, decide it has enough power to transmit a signal from its low gain antenna saying ‘I am awake and ok, but I am going back to sleep again.’ This should happen every sol until it decides to go back to full operation,” Arvidson adds.

 

“We have been listening but no low-gain antenna communications yet. And the storm continues in full force,” Arvidson says.

“The storm has gone global and is still raging. Three weeks today since we last heard from Opportunity,” adds Jim Rice, Geology Team Leader for the Mars Exploration Rover Project at the Arizona State University’s Mars Space Flight Facility. “I’m still confident we make it through this.”

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